The List – Episode 3: Get Organized

My eyes snapped open, and I ripped my gun out of its holster and leveled it at the man standing in the doorway.  My doorway, to my hole in the wall apartment in Old City.  I stole a glance off the screens lining the walls around my cot.  They showed every angle surrounding my apartment, some set on time delay, and there were no signs of the man breaking and entering.  None of my traps or alarms went off, which meant this man could have killed me if he wanted to.  And since I wasn’t dead, this man had another purpose.

“It was a lot harder to find you this time.  You really should stop moving around so often,” the man said, unfazed by the gun pointed right at his face.  He ducked through the threshold and straightened out his suit and tie as he towered over me.

“Silas.”  I rested the gun on my thigh, but maintained my grip on it.  “You could have just knocked.”

Silas smiled, his blinding white teeth contrasting against his smooth dark skin.

“Rumor has it that you took down Big Game.”

“There’s a reason why rumors spread,” I said as I threw my legs over the side of my cot and guzzled a protein vitamin mix.

“Word is that some of the members of Superior Six aren’t too happy about it.”

I wiped the flavorless drink from my lips.  “Let them cry about it.  If they want to find me all they have to do is look.”

“I’m just worried about my investment, that’s all.  Speaking of which, the untraceable credits can be found at the usual drop off point.  The normal amount,” Silas said, his usual grin masking any real human emotions on his face.  Not far into my hunt for superheroes, he found me.  Since then I’d looked in every database – government, corporations, private, you name it – the man was pristine.  Not a single record existed about the man who went by “Silas”.

Yet there he was, coming to me when I had barely even put a dent into my list, to make me an offer.  A large donation was made to my cause; all I had to do was continue what I was doing.  I knew he had to work for someone big, someone powerful – for all I knew, he could have been a member of the Superior Six himself.  I didn’t ask questions though.  For the moment, I would take his money, and if things started to get bad – I would kill him.  If that was even possible.

“You didn’t come here just to tell me my funds were restored.”

“No, I didn’t,” he said as he pulled a flexpaper from his jacket.  He flicked the paper open and handed it to me.  Several pictures of a girl in short black dress materialized, a veil covering the top half of her face in every one of them.  It looked like she was ready for a funeral, which not have been far from the truth with all the dead bodies at her feet.

“Cute girl.  Going to ask her out?” I said, already aware of the subject of the photos.

“Not quite.  I’m sure you’ve heard talk of the new super villain in town.  Cortege has already taken one person off the list for you.  But that’s not the issue.  She doesn’t target other super heroes.  Since she’s shown up on the scene, over seventy cops have had to be buried.”

“Not my problem.  Isn’t that what the ‘good guys’ are for?”

“Well,” Silas paused, his face briefly solemn, until that wide grin cracked across his face again.  “I have people that are very interested in learning from who she received her powers.  Read the records.  Wherever she goes, she leaves no trace besides a pile of dead bodies.  Surveillance cameras mysteriously stop working.  Bank vaults open at her command.  Bullets rain in on her, but none can apparently touch her.  The only reason we have those photos is because she sent them in.  We’ve tried to follow her, but she’s a ghost.”

“Sounds familiar,” I said, staring into his blank eyes, knowing where this was going.  “I take it you want me to find her and ask her?”

“I figured that you could get close to her, one super villain to – ”

I cut his sentence short as I jammed the barrel of my gun into his forehead and wrapped my fingers around his chicken neck.

“You call me that again and I’ll put a hole in your head.”

His hands shot up above his head.  “My apologies, Mr. Cole…but you know you are the one for the job.”

I let him sweat for another minute as I watched his grin contort into something twisted and forced, then I tucked the Seiver into the back of my pants and released my hold on his throat.

“If her power is what I think it is, I’m going to need better equipment.”

✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓

                I worked my way through the streets of Old City, moving my way in and out through the stench and grime of the crowd, until I came to the boundary that separated Old City from New City.  We called it the Gap, the place where flawless steel buildings butted up against the decaying brick artifacts from a century no one seemed to remember.  The Gap was an infestation of crime and corruption, just on the edge of police jurisdiction and human civilization.  If a person had information for sale, that’s where they would be.

I was already down a few hundred credits and had no pertinent information to show for it.  I had just finished breaking the nose of a man that’d tried to swindle me when a barefooted boy standing in the alleyway across the street caught my eye.  He nodded at me as I walked over.

“I hear you’re looking for a girl,” he said with a hint of nervousness in his voice.   “Five thousand credits.”

I eyed him for a moment, and contemplated beating the information out of him before reaching into my jacket for the money.  He was wearing tenth generation hand-me-downs and smelt like a grease trap left to rot in the sun, which told me this was more money than anyone in his family had seen in a long time.  I held the credits out, and some vague part of me hoped he’d buy a nice gun.

“Better be worth it.”

“Oh, it is,” he said with a huge grin as he pocketed the credits.  “She said she’s waiting for you, three blocks down, on Rose St. and Conner.”

He disappeared down the alley, and I climbed the fire escape on the nearest building that had one.  On the roof, I focused my binoculars to the location the boy had given me.  She already knew I was coming for her, the best I could do now was scout out the situation and play it by ear.   Right where the man said, there was a girl sitting on a concrete stoop.  Her frilly black dress came to her knees, which were tucked close to her chest.   She twirled a piece of her dark red hair as she looked right at me, then she waved a finger at me and the lenses on my binoculars shattered.  I tossed the ruined binoculars as they crumpled even further into a heap of worthless metal.

It was Cortege, no doubt, and apparently she wanted to see me in person.  I slid down the rusted stairs, jumping the last flight to avoid bringing the entire thing down on me, and jogged the short distance to where she sat.  As I approached, she stood and entered the building behind her.  The door was already closed by the time I was up the stoop.  I paused for a brief instant, considered waiting it out, but decided that now was a bad time to break the habit of walking into what was obviously a trap.

I pushed the door open and edged my way in.  The main hallway flickered with bursts of light.  I could take the stairs, or try one of the doors on this floor.  The door at the end of the hallway was slightly cracked, and I could hear muffled voices coming from it.  Oh where would my prize await me? The cracked door was closer, and I didn’t feel like walking up any more stairs.

I coasted down the hall and kicked the door open the rest of the way.  Seven men all snapped their heads up to look at me.  One of the men had his belt unbuckled and his fly unzipped, and his jacket was pulled down off his shoulders.  On the ground lay a sobbing woman, her face mangled purple and her clothes tattered.  I looked back to the men, to the clean black uniforms each of them wore, then to the tri-star emblem that set on each of their shoulders.  Cops.  And not just any cops – these were high ranking officers.  Each one of them would have standard issued augs – heightened strength, agility, and senses necessary for beating down food-deprived and drugged-up street punks.  The one with his pants down even had bionic arms, which meant he had brownnosed especially well.  I took all this in and made my decision in less than a second.

I usually made a point of not killing cops.  Mostly because it got real monotonous real quick.  But I was always willing to make exceptions.

I put a bullet each into the two closest cops and dove through a door to my side.  I rolled to my left as bullets shattered the door frame, and I pushed by back against the far wall with my gun ready.  I looked for a way out of the room and saw none.  The room itself was maybe six feet by six feet, no windows or doors, except for the one I came in from.  Just stack upon stack of rat-chewed boxes.  I had rolled right into a damn walk in closet.  The only way out was back through the cops.

I reached for a grenade and tossed it out at the same time one of their own grenades came bouncing off the walls of my little room.  I unholstered my Seiver and scrambled out of the closet as the explosion went off behind me and threw me against a wall.  At this point, my grenade went off, bouncing me off the ceiling and back to the floor.  I rubbed the blood from my ears, trying futilely to block out the high pitched ringing that screamed in my head.  I lifted myself up and stumbled into the wall.  The entire room was filled with dust and smoke, and I didn’t see the cop until he was right on top of me.

I caught a metal fist to my jaw and spun halfway around from the force of the blow.  The room distorted as my brain sloshed against the sides of my skull, but I could see the cop with the bionic arms coming in for more.  I turned to attack, bringing my Seiver up to chest level, but it was then that I realized I had lost my gun sometime between being thrown like a rag doll and being deafened.  The cop swung again, this time hitting me in my temple and sending me to my knees.  He raised his fist, ready to deliver the finishing blow.  Despite the spinning room from what was likely due to a hemorage, I wasn’t about to let this scumbag have his way.  He paused for an instant to look down at the beam blade I had jabbed into his ribs.  I thrust the blade in a quick upward motion, tearing it out through his shoulder, and his dead body crumpled to the floor.

A gun blasted from across the room, leaving a few neat little holes in the plaster just inches from where I stood.  I slashed my blade around blindly, extending its reach to the far side of the room.  I must have gotten lucky, because one of the cops screamed in agony for a brief moment before going silent.  I shortened the beam back and waited for another noise, and searched through the settling dust for the other cops.

More gun shots, this time pelting me in the left shoulder and forearm and the handle of my blade.  The beam fizzled out as the handle twisted out of my grip and clanked on the floor.  I ducked towards the roar of gun fire and lunged.  I got lucky again and slammed into his chest without taking any more bullet wounds.  I wrapped my arm around his arm that held the gun and shifted my weight backwards, simultaneously breaking his elbow at the joint and pulling his arm out of socket.  While he was preoccupied with that, I leaned forward and smashed my head into his face.

Another cop rammed his shoulder into me, throwing me and the cop I was attacking to the ground.  I grabbed the gun from the arm I just broke, flipped around, and emptied the magazine into the last cop.

I stood and dusted my jacket off, then stopped.  Cortege was standing at the entryway, her cold blue eyes glowing in the gray debris that filled the room.  She stared directly at me, completely ignoring the bodies strewn about the room.

“Your count is off,” she said, just as I noticed out of the corner of my eye the cop I had forgotten to kill.  His finger was squeezing the trigger, the barrel aimed right at my head.  I launched myself backwards, but it was too late.  The hammer fell, striking the firing pin and setting off a chemical reaction that would result in my death.

The bullet fired, hitting the cop right between the eyes.  The barrel of his gun was turned around backwards on the grip like it had been built that way, which was odd because the instant before the barrel had been facing me.

I brought myself back to my feet and turned to Cortege.  “Some trick.  So you are a reorganizer.”

I had my suspicions that she had the ability to reorganize – a powerful TK ability to shift molecules around, to shape one thing into something completely different  – and now my suspicions were confirmed.  This explained the why bank vaults would open effortlessly, why no film was able to capture her presence, and why she was able to rebuild a gun in an instant with her mind.  It was a dangerous power that no one should have.

“I am.  Are you here to try to kill me?”

“I haven’t decided yet, but honestly right now I’m not in the best mood.”

“These cops, I had been following them for the last two days.  Don’t feel bad about them.  They were bad men, worse than you or I.”

I laughed.  “I’m not mad about that.  I’m angry because you used me, and I don’t like being used.”

“You don’t like being used?  I’ve been watching you for a while now, and I know your money is being supplied by someone else.  For what reason do you think you get your funds?”

I cocked my head to the right until my neck popped.  “You’ve got it backwards.  I could say the same about you.  Research on reorganization tech is expensive and thought to be nowhere near complete.  Now you tell me, where’d you get those powers from?”

“My powers?”  Her lip curled up on one corner.  “I’ve always had them.  I’m a natural.”

I let out a cough.  “There’s no such thing.”

She was toying with me.  I spotted my gun, which was tucked halfway under a slab of plaster a few feet from my current position.  She saw this and raised her eyebrows, an invitation for me to make my move.  I could barely use my left arm and my brain was feeding me garbled images, but what the hell.

I jumped for the gun, grabbed it, and spun in as fluid a motion that I could manage in my current state.  She looked me in the eyes.  She let me grab my gun.  She knew I couldn’t hurt her with it.

What she didn’t know was that I was also carrying a stasis grenade.  I pulled it out and flung it into the middle of the room.  Its effect was instant, and would last for less than two seconds.  During said two seconds, any attempts a telekinetic made to manipulate space would be nullified.

It didn’t even take me a half a second to fire my gun dry.  Her body fell limp to the floor and I breathed a sigh of relief.

“I can’t believe you fell for it.”  I jumped at the sound of her voice.  She was standing again, with no signs at all that I had just unloaded enough bullets on her to take out a small army.

She smiled as she closed in on me.  I teetered backwards and butted against the wall as she leaned close to me and brought her lips to my ear, the entire time my mind raced to find a way out of this situation.

“I told you my powers were different.  I don’t care about you or what you do.  Now, I led you here because of that list of yours.  I only care about one thing: Number two on that list.  Arachnos,” she said, putting so much venom into the name that it made me feel all tingly inside, “He’s mine.”

“The chief of the police?  The Arachnos?  You may be powerful, but there’s no way you can beat him.”

She reached her hand past my face and placed it on the wall behind me.  I was now leaning against the frame of a door that wasn’t there a second ago.

“I will kill him.  And if you interfere, I’ll kill you too.  Got it?”  She pulled open the door, pushing me out of the way, completely ignoring me like I didn’t even exist, and walked through it.  The walls shook when she slammed it behind her, and I grabbed the doorknob and almost yanked the door off the frame, revealing nothing but brick and wood supports.

“I won’t get in your way.  But you can bet I’ll stand there and watch you die!”  I yelled out into the nothingness.